How and why to fall into yoga this season

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Whether you like it or not, Labor Day weekend is over. School is officially in full swing, summer vacation is over and – ready or not – the winter will soon be upon us.

The fall signals a transition back to a routine. Why not make it a healthy one? Committing to a new health or fitness goal like beginning a regular yoga practice can result in lifelong, positive changes.

Why Yoga

There's a reason we no longer hear so much about faddy aerobics classes. "Quick-fix" workouts dissolve quickly, while yoga has evolved with time.

Yoga challenges you without the competition central to some other workouts. The practice teaches you to focus on yourself – and only yourself. As soon as you try to compare yourself to others, your ego is in the driver's seat and the risk of hurting yourself increases.

Yoga is different every time and has depth. Each class is an opportunity to practice an infinite number of poses and variations, and there's even more variety in how you approach them. In this way, yoga will likely capture your interest more than doing the same, boring routine over and over again. If you are not excited about your workout, chances are you will quit and bounce around from one program to the next without making any progress.

Alignment and safety are top priorities in yoga. The practice is most concerned with creating the most optimal biomechanical blueprint for everyone. This is why each yoga practice is individualized.

What to Expect

There are many different styles of yoga, which range from the most gentle classes (such as a restorative or yin class) to the very athletic and sweaty classes (such as vinyasa flow or Bikram yoga).

Before you head to class this fall, do some research online to make sure you know what you are getting into. No matter what style you choose, you can almost always expect some movement and exercise. If you decide to go for the more physically demanding classes, be ready to sweat and get one of the best workouts of your life. Some poses will be very doable, while others will seem impossible. With time, you will get a really clear sense of how to approach all different levels of poses with ease.

Classes are usually crowded if you are going after work in the evening. During the first class, try your best to follow the teacher's instructions. If you find yourself lost or confused, it's okay to look around the room to get a sense of what you "should" be doing. By the third or fourth class, you will be moving right along with the group fluently. Always tell a teacher if you have an injury, and never push yourself if you are in pain.

Just attending your first class is the hardest part. Once you have that first class under your belt, it only gets better.

See photos of this year's International Yoga Day:

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International Yoga Day 2015
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How and why to fall into yoga this season
BEIJING, CHINA -JUNE 21: Chinese students from Geely University take part in a yoga workshop marking the International Day of Yoga at an event sponsored by the Government of India on June 21, 2015 in Beijing, China. Millions of people wordlwide took part in the first International Day of Yoga, which was declared by the United Nations last year. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Participants perform yoga at an event to celebrate the International Yoga Day, pictured from the first floor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Yoga enthusiasts bent and twisted their bodies in complex postures across India and much of the world on Sunday to mark the first International Yoga Day. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Hundreds of people attend a yoga session under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on June 21, 2015, in a mass yoga session to mark the first International Yoga Day. 192 countries join the event. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian army soldiers perform yoga at an army training area, in Chennai, India, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Millions of yoga enthusiasts across the world bent and twisted their bodies in complex postures Sunday to mark International Yoga Day.. (AP Photo/Arun Sankar K)
Indian Prime Minister Narednra Modi lies down on a mat as he performs yoga along with thousands of Indians on Rajpath, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Millions of yoga enthusiasts are bending their bodies in complex postures across India as they take part in a mass yoga program to mark the first International Yoga Day.(AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
People practice yoga in New York's Times Square while celebrating the summer solstice June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
People practice yoga in New York's Times Square while celebrating the summer solstice June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman holds an asana pose while practicing yoga in New York's Times Square while celebrating the summer solstice June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
People practice yoga in New York's Times Square while celebrating the summer solstice June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
People practice yoga in New York's Times Square while celebrating the summer solstice June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman holds an asana pose while practicing yoga in New York's Times Square while celebrating the summer solstice June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian children perform water yoga as they take part in a mass yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day at Dau ri Dhani Swiming Pool in Jodhpur on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people attend a yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day in Manila on June 21, 2015. 192 countries join the event. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people attend a yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day in Manila on June 21, 2015. 192 countries join the event. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people attend a yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day in Manila on June 21, 2015. 192 countries join the event. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people attend a yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day in Manila on June 21, 2015. 192 countries join the event. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people attend a yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day in Manila on June 21, 2015. 192 countries join the event. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Yoga enthusiasts perform yoga during International Day of Yoga in Colombo on June 21, 2015, in a yoga session to mark the first International Yoga Day. AFP PHOTO / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Yoga enthusiasts perform yoga during International Day of Yoga in Colombo on June 21, 2015, in a yoga session to mark the first International Yoga Day. AFP PHOTO / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
National Cadet Corps (NCC) participate in a mass yoga session to mark International Yoga Day at the parade grounds in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO/ Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian children perform water yoga as they take part in a mass yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day at Dau ri Dhani Swiming Pool in Jodhpur on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
National Cadet Corps (NCC) participate in a mass yoga session to mark International Yoga Day at the parade grounds in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO/ Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Yoga enthusiasts perform yoga during International Day of Yoga in Colombo on June 21, 2015, in a yoga session to mark the first International Yoga Day. AFP PHOTO / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JUNE 21: Chinese students from Geely University take part in a yoga workshop marking the International Day of Yoga at an event sponsored by the Government of India on June 21, 2015 in Beijing, China. Millions of people wordlwide took part in the first International Day of Yoga, which was declared by the United Nations last year. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Kashmiri students of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) perform a yoga session to mark the first International Yoga Day in Srinagar on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he surprised thousands in New Delhi by taking to a mat himself to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO/ Tauseef MUSTAFA (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
National Cadet Corps (NCC) members participate in a mass yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day at the parade grounds in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFPHOTO/ Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
National Cadet Corps (NCC) participate in a mass yoga session to mark International Yoga Day at the parade grounds in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO/ Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Nepalese people take part in a yoga session to mark International Yoga Day in Kathmandu on June 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ Prakash MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (front L) participates in a mass yoga session along with other Indian yoga practitioners to mark the International Yoga Day on Rajpath in New Delhi on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) take part in a mass yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day in the Brigade Parade grounds in front of the Victoria Memorial (back) in Kolkata on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO / Dibyangshu Sarkar (Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Attendees take part in a mass yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day on Rajpath in New Delhi on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian schoolchildren take part in a yoga programme in Chennai on June 19, 2015, ahead of International Yoga Day on June 21. Preparations in India have been gathering pace since the UN agreed to the day, with schools, military barracks and even jails encouraged to participate in their own sessions. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian yoga practitioners participate in a session organised by the Bharatiya Yog Sansthan Association in Amritsar on June 19, 2015, ahead of the first International Yoga Day on June 21 . Yoga, which means union in Sanskrit, is a family of ancient spiritual practices and also a school of spiritual thought from the South East Asian continent, where it remains a vibrant living tradition and is seen as a means of enlightenment. Yoga enthusiasts in other countries are also expected to stretch and bend for the celebration of the ancient Indian practice, including in Britain where mats will be rolled out along the banks of the River Thames.AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)
Lebanese and foreign citizens attend an Acro yoga class as they mark International Yoga Day, at Beirut Yoga Center, Lebanon, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Millions of yoga enthusiasts across the world bent and twisted their bodies in complex postures Sunday to mark International Yoga Day. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Oliver Chamo, 33, a Spanish Yoga instructor, left, instructs an Acro yoga class during the first International Yoga Day, at Beirut Yoga Center, Lebanon, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Millions of yoga enthusiasts across the world bent and twisted their bodies in complex postures Sunday to mark International Yoga Day. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Lebanese and foreign citizens perform yoga during an Acro yoga class to mark International Yoga Day, at Beirut Yoga Center, Lebanon, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Millions of yoga enthusiasts across the world bent and twisted their bodies in complex postures Sunday to mark International Yoga Day. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Indian yoga enthusiasts perform yoga on International Yoga Day in Amritsar on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)
Hundreds of school learners take part in a yoga session as part of the International Day of Yoga at the amphitheatre lawns at the North Beach on June 21, 2015 in Durban. AFP PHOTO/RAJESH JANTILAL (Photo credit should read RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel perform yoga on International Yoga Day in Khasa on the outskirts of Amritsar on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel perform yoga on International Yoga Day in Khasa on the outskirts of Amritsar on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel perform yoga on International Yoga Day in Khasa on the outskirts of Amritsar on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian Bollywood actress Shweta Khanduri takes part in a yoga session on International Yoga Day in Mumbai on June 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian politician and actress Rakhi Sawant (C) takes part in a yoga session on International Yoga Day in Mumbai on June 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Yoga enthusiasts take part in a mass yoga session to mark International Yoga Day in Nairobi on June 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Yoga enthusiasts take part in a mass yoga session to mark International Yoga Day in Nairobi on June 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people attend a yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day in Manila on June 21, 2015. 192 countries join the event. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people attend a yoga session to mark the International Yoga Day in Manila on June 21, 2015. 192 countries join the event. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
National Cadet Corps (NCC) participate in a mass yoga session to mark International Yoga Day at the parade grounds in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad on June 21, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a 'new era of peace', moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice. AFP PHOTO/ Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Kashmiri students perform yoga as they mark International Yoga Day in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Millions of yoga enthusiasts across the world bent and twisted their bodies in complex postures Sunday to mark International Yoga Day. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)
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What to Wear and Bring

Make sure you wear something comfortable and easy to move around in. I recommend a regular pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt or tank top. Bring a water bottle and a towel.

If you are in it for the long haul, invest in a quality yoga mat. Something that has a good grip and gives you ample padding works best. Most yoga studios provide you with props, which can be used for many different reasons – namely, to modify poses and keep you safe. My suggestion is to have two yoga blocks, a blanket and a strap handy while you practice.

How to Find a Routine

The fall can become hectic with school and work schedules, which is why the morning is the best time to practice. In the early hours of the day, your mind is fresh and nothing can prevent you from having that time to yourself. Otherwise, life happens and you risk missing your evening yoga class.

After three weeks of classes, you should become familiar with the basic yoga poses. When you are comfortable with the basics, get into the habit of practicing for 10 minutes every morning as soon as you wake up.

Here's a sequence to practice every morning: down dog, standing forward fold, lunge, locust, side angle, triangle, wide angle forward fold, pigeon, bridge and seated twist. This is a great way to make sure you stay committed and maintain all of the progress, strength and flexibility you have built.

How to Complement Yoga With Healthy Habits

To complement your yoga practice and contribute to your overall health, you can also integrate other self-care techniques into your routine. These are simple changes you can easily implement immediately. When you wake up, drink a tall glass of warm lemon water. This will help curb your appetite and aid in digestion. Eat your largest meal for lunch. This way, you are not going to bed on a full stomach. If you drink alcohol, limit your consumption to once a week, and do not drink too much.

How to Stay Motivated

Find a yoga buddy and hold each other accountable for showing up. If you cannot practice together, check in with one another on a regular basis to support each other and stay on course. Write down your goals and post them in a place where you can see them often, such as your computer screen or mirror. Your goals should be reasonable, and keeping them somewhere visible will give you direction. Make a yoga playlist just for something fun to look forward to when you practice at home. Just the fact that you are taking steps toward a healthier life might be motivation enough.

What You'll Get Out of It

If you practice yoga regularly – three to five times each week – you can expect many benefits. Within the first month, you will notice major gains in strength and flexibility. You will become more lean than bulky. After a month of a regular practice, you will alleviate most pain, particularly in your lower back and joints. You will feel lighter physically from burning fat and calories, and lighter mentally from yoga's emphasis on deep relaxation and self-care. The focus you have on the mat will translate to more driven and focused practices off the mat. Beyond that first month, it depends just how far you want to advance your health. Yoga helps you optimize your well-being; it is a practice that supports all facets of vibrant living.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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